Indictment Charges 23 Conspirators in Alleged Staged Accident Scheme

Federal prosecutors have charged 23 people in an alleged scheme that they say claimed nearly $1 million in damages from staged automobile accidents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington announced the unsealing of a 138-count federal indictment on Monday. The indictment charges 22 defendants with mail and wire fraud. A 23rd defendant is accused of obstruction of justice.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref said the accused staged 14 automobile accidents. In at least three instances, there were no occupants in the vehicle when one of the accused deliberately drove the alleged “at fault” vehicle into another car.

The defendants lived in Washington, British Columbia, California, Nevada and Michigan. They allegedly defrauded State Farm Group, Geico, the Travelers Cos., Farmers Insurance Exchange, Country Financial, MAPFRE Group and Allstate Insurance Group.

According to the indictment, the defendants defrauded insurers in a scheme that began in July 2017 and lasted until September 2020. They would visit a Washington State Department of Motor Vehicles office and transfer ownership of a vehicle as a “gift,” the indictment says. Shortly later—sometimes on the same day—they would stage an accident on a remote road at night. There would be no witnesses other than the conspirators.

On at least one occasion, the conspirators placed weighted materials on the unoccupied front passenger seat to cause the airbag to deploy and tampered with the seat dashboard panel as part of the staging, the indictment says.

The conspirators allegedly sought emergency room treatment for fictitious injuries allegedly suffered in the staged accidents. They lied to police, medical providers and insurance companies to further the scheme, the indictment says. The conspirators hired personal injury attorneys, who are not identified in the indictment, to help them pursue their claims.

Six of the accused conspirators tried to obstruct the investigation by accusing the FBI agent in ch are of soliciting a $22,000 bribe. Three of the conspirators allegedly threatened physical force to prevent communication about their crimes, the US Attorney’s Office said.

The indictment charges:

Al-Jibory is not charged in the alleged staged-accident scheme, but he is accused of obstructing proceedings after learning that the FBI was investigating.